If you have not yet seen Stranger Things, stop reading right now. I’m about to spoil everything.
I loved Stranger Things so much I watched the whole thing in one enraptured ten hour moment.
Then I watched it again last week with my twelve-year-old daughter because I wanted to share it with her. There’s an awesome girl in it, I said. She saves the day, I said.
I still love the show. The acting, the winks to the eighties, the music, Winona, those gorgeous children, the idiot Steve Harrington’s hairdo. What’s not to love?
Well, there is no honor between any of the female characters. I mean none.
Nancy forsakes Barb. Joyce rejects Karen’s casserole help. Carol is awful to Nancy. The red-haired girl snitches on Jonathan not to protect Nancy, but to get in good with Steve Harrington. The one moment of real tenderness between women happens when Joyce visits the catatonic Terry Ives and they have a second of one-sided bonding over missing their kids.
Barb’s fate is now fodder for the Jimmy Fallon show. She was such a nerd and now she’s gone and nobody really cares. They should care but they don’t really, not even Nancy. Especially not Nancy, sitting there all cozy on the couch with Steve and kissing Jonathan on the cheek and looking at him all sad and cute. I see you, Nancy.
After the second viewing of Stranger Things, I loved it even more for Winona, the plot pacing, the government conspiracy, The Clash, Eleven’s badassery, the work of Renaissance art that is Michael Wheeler’s face. But wouldn’t it have been cool if Nancy had a friend that truly challenged and inspired her? Or if Joyce had a cool woman in her life to bring over cigarettes and an ax to help her with the wall? Would at least one productive female friendship have taken anything away from the story?
One thing I loved about Stranger Things was that it was so realistic to the time period when I was a teenager. The parents had no idea where their kids were half the time, bullies did whatever the hell they wanted, school was so easy to skip, a lot of people wore corduroy.
Something else about the eighties: I had a string of best girlfriend relationships in that decade that were intense, supportive, and all-consuming. My best girlfriends inspired me. I wanted to dance like Theresa, defend myself like Brandi, sing like Diane, write like Teri, and do just about everything like Laura. I had a few boyfriends, but it was my best friendships with other girls that made me a person.
Every girl I knew growing up had at least one friend that meant everything to her. Most of us could count on our best friends to at least not leave us behind in the weird grimy pool.
Maybe Barb and Eleven are hanging out, inspiring and comforting each other in the underneath. A loyal female friendship would be truly authentic to the eighties and being young and female and stuck with navigating a strange world.
Now about Nancy choosing Steve over Jonathan. . . . .
- List your most important friends growing up. Who were they? What was important to them? How did they inspire you, or shape you into who you are now?
- Write about a time a friend stood up for you, or protected you when you needed it. When did you do the same for her? (Or him?)
- Write about a time you betrayed a friend, or one betrayed you. What was the aftermath of that betrayal? Did the friendship survive?
- What aspects of yourself can you attribute to friendships you had when you were young? Do you love a certain band because a friend introduced you to it? Was there a piece of advice you still follow? How do friendships stick with us long after we’ve moved on?
- Who are you still friends with from when you were young? Why has that friendship lasted?
Gratuitous but awesome: